The art of accompaniment
“Help me!” Out of a dark bathroom in a long term care home, I heard a plaintive cry and froze. I was there to bring the Eucharist, nothing more. I turned to seek out an attendant and heard again, “Don’t leave me!” Heart pounding, I crept forward, identified myself loudly and turned on the lights to find an elderly woman on the toilet. With shaking hands I cleaned her and helped her to stand up. She leaned against me as we washed our hands. Secretly I thought, “I have wiped Christ’s bottom.”
Jesus said that whatever we do for the least of his brethren we do for him. This is true whether we cook for our family, give alms to the poor or serve at Mass. However, it might be particularly true when we are called to move out of our comfort zone and give more than we intended to. For example, when we offer to buy a street person a coffee and he chooses a whole meal with it. Or we call to check in on a friend and she spills out her woes for an hour. When we give of ourselves we prefer to have a measure of control over the experience but that is not how God gives of himself. God gave his only son, and Jesus gave his lifeblood for us. God continues to give constantly and completely, so we are called to do the same. This kind of self-emptying service is what Pope Francis called “the art of accompaniment”.
“The Church will have to initiate everyone – priests, religious and laity- into this “art of accompaniment” which teaches us to remove our sandals before the sacred ground of the other.” (Evangelii Gaudium 169)
I am coming to understand The Art of Accompaniment through a series of talks given by Fr. Tim Boyle at St. Martha’s Parish in Lethbridge . So far Fr. Boyle has noted that accompaniment is not quite the same as caregiving, although it might include that. To accompany someone is to first of all recognize that God is with them. As guest speaker Reno Guimond said, “We are not bringing God to anyone. God has been there long before we show up. We go to see where God is.” Besides recognizing God in each person, we also need to understand how God works in the world.
Fr. Boyle encouraged his listeners to imagine God “delighting” in the world as he created it. “God has invested himself in creation,” Fr. Boyle said. “This is not a one-time event but an evolving artwork. If God accompanies us as an artist not as an engineer then God is vulnerable to the unfolding of Creation… God suffers in the process… God chooses to spend himself on creation.” This form of sacrificial support was expressed ultimately by God becoming human and Jesus’ death and resurrection.
For us, sacrificial giving of ourselves is often a challenge. Society dictates that one must preserve oneself, must learn to ‘Say No’, and ration one’s time and energy. Yet Creation shows otherwise. Fr. Boyle used the examples of salmon making death runs upstream to spawn, and sunflowers drying up to produce seeds for food and for procreation. “Like salmon and sunflowers, every creature, in order to reach their full potential, needs to empty themselves out”, Fr. Boyle said. So how is this achieved in practical terms? How does one accompany another person, whether continuously or when called upon?
It begins when we accept God’s accompaniment of us. This happens through grace which Fr. Boyle suggests is “like manna – something given by God every day which cannot be stored up but only taken advantage of that day.” Grace is not a weapon or superpower, it doesn’t enhance our abilities. Indeed it requires us to first accept that we have no ability without God. We are flawed and vulnerable beings made precious by God’s acceptance. It is God’s grace that sustains us, sanctifies us. When we understand this dynamic we are better prepared to handle the vulnerability of others, to accept it, and handle it gently.
Since my first incident of extreme vulnerability in long-term care, my ministry partner and I have been called upon to assist a few others at their times of greatest need, in life and even approaching death. While I still feel my heart pounding each time, the experiences have been deeply humbling. I know God is helping me learn how to cherish the sacred ground of others.
Men from the God Squad and several Catholic churches in the Calgary Diocese recently came together to give an old church a facelift in Brocket, Alberta, located on the Piikani Nation between Fort Macleod and Pincher Creek.
The work done at St. Paul’s was more than just some exterior painting and repairs. It was also symbolic.
Deacon Tom O’Toole, who is assigned to St. Paul’s, said the parish is a community of elders and it doesn’t have all the resources within the Nation to handle some of these bigger projects.
“We think it’s an opportunity in the spirit of truth and reconciliation to show the universality of the Church in its beauty and diversity,” said O’Toole, who has been at the parish for about six or seven years. “They did some of the harder work that we were not able to accomplish on our own but we gave them something too.
“We paid them with our affection. We fed them. They brought their own food. But we participated in that. And our elders were here. It wasn’t just a simple act of splashing paint on a building. It rolled up into a bigger purpose which is to bring all God’s people together and show the beauty. These people who came from St. Peter’s, I’ve known them for a long time. So I’m not surprised how fantastic they are and a few of them have come to help before so they’re not a stranger here either. That to me is how relationship is built and how truth and reconciliation makes its way around the bases so to speak.”
During his ministry as a Deacon, O’Toole has also been assigned in the past to St. Peter’s.
Sean Lynn, who spearheads the God Squad organization, said about a dozen volunteers came out in late August to do some work on the aging St. Paul’s building.
“It was a great opportunity for us to put into action a love for the Church and reach out to the First Nations’ community showing that we want to work with them, we want to start those conversations, we want to be present in their community. And the Church, it’s a way of reopening the dialogue with them,” explained Lynn.
Lynn also wanted to give a big shout out to Dan Lebsack of Cougar Painting, who joined the work crew for the St. Paul’s initiative, offering his professional experience, advice and expertise as well as his painting skills.
“They did great work. A great service that we all appreciate. I announced it in the church,” said Rev. Roy Jayamaha, of St. Paul’s. “We really appreciated their great efforts. It was a wonderful thing. They put their heart and soul and work for our community. It was a great thing.
“We believe that the door to salvation is always open and so are the doors to our church. Our mission is to be fully devoted to Jesus by opening our arms to those in search of the truth. We show God’s love and concern for our fellow humanity at every opportunity. Through works of charity and opening our doors to listen and love, we feel that we are walking in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.”
The God Squad, a Catholic men’s organization, whose vision through the guidance of St. Joseph, is to form and strengthen men, inspiring them to embrace God’s vocation in their lives.
Other volunteers included people from St. Peter’s, Holy Spirit and St. James churches in Calgary as well as St. Mary’s in Brooks.
Father Roy was originally from Sri Lanka and arrived in the Calgary Diocese in 2014 after having worked as a missionary in Pakistan for 38 years. Bishop Frederick Henry appointed him pastor of St. Paul’s in January 2016.
“My prayer for this community is that together we will rediscover the joy of the Gospel, bringing many people back to church by our personal witness. The youth and children are our future and together we must strive to find new ways and means to share God’s love for creation. My faith tells me, it is the work of the Lord we are doing and He will guide our steps forward,” said Father Roy.
In Mary's loving presence
An inspiring grotto housing the statue of Mary seems only fitting for the backyard of Elizabeth House, a transitional housing program supported by the Diocese which welcomes pregnant and parenting women who need a safe place to live.
Mother Mary is symbolic of womanhood and motherhood and Elizabeth House staff are hopeful that the resilient women who access the house and services provided there will find the grotto to be a place of healing and hope as embodied in Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Dave Curry, who built the grotto with the help of Peter Dugandzic, shared that the project was meaningful to him because the statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe holds pro-life significance. He spoke about the hard work of constructing the beautiful brick grotto in the summer heat last year and how it was recently completed.
Dave said that it was “beautiful doing something for Elizabeth House and for Mary”. Dave is a member of the Knights of Columbus Don Bosco Council at St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church and built the grotto with the help and support from the Knights of Columbus.
Elizabeth House has capacity to house seven women and their babies. This program offers resources, support, and a safe place for women to start their motherhood journey. Elizabeth House states that through their program courageous mothers are empowered to work towards a transition to independent living as well as pursue the education or job skills training necessary to help set the foundation for a bright future.
Marin Lepp, an Elizabeth House staff, said the grotto and statue speak to the “the incredible support and spiritual foundation that this place has for all of the women who we welcome from every background, every walk of life. This represents strength in womanhood and in motherhood and that looks so different for all of our ladies based on their circumstances.”
Marin called the the grotto a grounding place, and a guide in Elizabeth House’s approach to reconciliation for Indigenous peoples. She reflected that at the centre of the work is “motherhood, womanhood and the strength around that.”
The special garden area where Our Lady of Guadalupe has taken up residence was blessed recently by Bishop William McGrattan of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary.
“I think the legacy of Elizabeth House is something that we’ve received from the religious and I think it’s something that allows us to witness to and continue the sanctity of human life and to know that we’re helping families, especially women who want to make this choice. It’s counter-cultural and I think the Church needs to be present and allow them to go forward with this particular support that they need,” said Bishop McGrattan.
Bishop McGrattan emphasized the importance of making sure that Elizabeth House continues. He stated that the program has important donors and volunteer associations who value and support the work of Elizabeth House and stated that this work is “an important commitment as well. Just the experience of them being here supporting these young women and their children is something. They know they’re living their faith.”
Bishop McGrattan also reflected on the significance of Mary as a symbol of grace, joy, and hope for all. He stated that “First of all, she is Christ’s mother. The mother of the visible and the image of the invisible God. But she is also the image and the model of the Church and she is an exemplar. In Mary, the Church joyously contemplates the image of all that the Church itself desires and hopes wholly to be. The Church recognizes in Mary the model of the path and the practice it must follow to reach complete union with Christ.”
Bishop McGrattan hoped that when people from Elizabeth House are outside in the backyard the grotto the statue of Mary will catch their eye and that “they might be drawn into a moment of reflection, a moment of prayer. And that’s what images and statues are for. They draw our attention, they focus our thoughts and our sentiments. Often we formulate the words of prayer. This is how I think it will be an important statue here in this backyard of Elizabeth House,” he said.
“We know that those who come here in this yard and are able to pray, and contemplate, will ponder as Mary did in the silence of her heart the truth and the gift of human life and the gift and choice that they’ve made. We pray and hope that this will be a time and a moment where they see the hand of God through our Blessed Mother that they have made a choice for life and that we are supporting them.”
Written by Mario Toneguzzi & Elizabeth House Staff for Faithfully. Photos courtesy of Marin Lepp.
Why rise up?
God Squad Canada started in Calgary with four police officers coming together in prayer. It has since grown into an apostolate over the last 25 years that influences men around the world.
Through the guidance of St Joseph, God Squad’s vision is to form and strengthen men, inspiring them to embrace God’s vocation in their lives. They strive to encourage men positively amidst today’s darkness of spiritual famine and moral confusion. God Squad wishes to reverse the breakdown of families by serving and nurturing men of all ages to be leaders in their families and communities.
Their ministry brings men together by various initiatives such as BBQ Outreach, motorcycle rides, disc golf, or by hosting an annual Men's Conference. During the Year of St Joseph, God Squad was able to stream their conference online and reach men throughout the world.
Many men over the years have been inspired to show the same servant leadership to their families that Christ has for His bride, the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church because of these conferences. Men have discerned marriage; others the priesthood. (See “How Many of You” in God Squad’s Newsletter for November 2021 and read about Father Troy Nguyen's experience at a God Squad Conference). Others have found the strength to persevere or to take on new challenges, or to find new meaning and hope in their faith.
Some men have been sent by their wives and are now eternally grateful! Some come looking for answers. Most come just to be with other like minded men. Men need mentoring. Men need to mentor others. Men need to lead.
In an interview with Mario Toneguzzi on Faith Spotlight, Sean Lynn, president and founder of God Squad Canada says that this year’s theme was inspired by Avi Kaplan’s song “Change on the Rise" and St. John Paul II’s new springtime in his encyclical Redemptoris Missio, long before the current political winds and discourse in the media. Inspired by reflection, Sean recognizes, as farmers do, that the springtime is a time of hard work. As “we’re coming out of two years of struggle and strife” says Constable Lynn, “we need to work hard at coming together and work for healing” and building up the Kingdom of God.
Consider giving the men in your life a ticket to “Change on the Rise; Ushering in the New Springtime!”. This year God Squad has the pleasure of hosting amazing speakers: Jeff Cavins, Brett Powell, and Bishop William McGrattan, who will celebrate the Mass. All men in the Diocese (and beyond) are invited to come for the Conference at St. Michael's Church in Calgary, on March 18 & 19, 2022. You can register to attend in person or to watch via livestream. Bring your son, your father, your brother, your cousin, your friend, or even a stranger! Consider hosting a viewing party (Contact email@example.com if you need ideas on hosting a viewing party), or to host the viewing party in your parish.
And as a bonus, get free access to Chris Stefanik’s “Rise A 30 – Day Challenge” worth $45 - after you register.
Ten Reasons to join God Squad Men's Conference this year
Submitted by God Squad Canada
Nativity postage stamps
Do you know that Christian-themed Christmas stamps are an example of successful resolutions by the Catholic Women's League (CWL) of Canada?
National CWL Resolution 1959.12 resolved "that The Catholic Women's League of Canada in 39th annual national convention assembled at Saint John, N.B., request the federal government to plan a Christmas stamp depicting a “Nativity Scene” to be issued in Canada annually during the month of December."
This was followed by their Resolution 1980.11 which resolved that "The national council of The Catholic Women's League of Canada, in 60th annual national convention assembled, do commend Canada Post for the issues of postage stamps with religious themes and do recommend that each year one or more of the Christmas stamps issued have such a theme." Resolution 2005.01 resolved "that the national council of The Catholic Women's League of Canada, in 85th annual national convention assembled, urge Canada Post to include a Nativity-related theme in its future Christmas stamp issues." All of these resolutions were archived in 2016 because the action requested has been accomplished. Canadians have had a Christmas-themed stamp for several years now and deeply grateful for the effort of CWL in the process.
Canada Post began the tradition of featuring Nativity art on stamps in 1965, with an issue featuring the Gifts of the Magi. In the years since, the Nativity Scene has been portrayed in children’s illustrations (1970, 1975) stained glass windows (1976, 1997), gouache illustrations (1977), early Renaissance paintings (1978), icons (1988), Aboriginal art (2002), and more. The stamps have provided excellent opportunities to celebrate the birth of Jesus through Canadian art.
Booklets of the 2020 Nativity stamp, the 2019 The Magi, the 2017 Adoration of the Shepherds and 2018 "Away in a Manger" are still available on the Canada Post website.
2021 Nativity Stamps
Celebrate Christmas with this booklet of 12 permanent domestic rate stamps from the 2021 Christmas (Angels) stamp issue. This year’s Christmas issue is inspired by the angels who served as messengers in the Nativity story. The stamp features a simple line depiction of a Christmas angel on a serene white background.
Montréal-based artist Stéphane Huot and illustrator Luc Melanson, who resides near Montréal, produced simple line drawings on a crisp white background, evoking purity and peace through the Christmas season. Beloved symbols at Christmas, angels played an integral part in the Nativity story. In the Bible, these celestial beings, whose name derives from the Greek word for messenger, often serve as benevolent intermediaries between God and humanity. According to the Gospel of Luke, it was the archangel Gabriel who told Mary she would give birth to Jesus, “Son of the Most High,” and when the day arrived, it was an angel who announced the good news to shepherds tending their flocks in the region. A choir of angels singing God’s praise appeared around the messenger angel, and then the awed shepherds departed for Bethlehem to worship the newborn king. (Source: Canada Post)
These stamps are available in outlets as well as through the Canada Post website. Some nativity stamps from previous years are still available through the Canada Post website.
I leap for joy
St. John the Baptist is one of my favorite saints. I even gave our eldest son the name John for his second name. And I chose St. John the Baptist as his patron saint.
I consider St. John the Baptist as the First Evangelizer who proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah. He directed everyone to Jesus. In one painting he is seen looking at others while pointing his finger to Jesus. What an apt depiction of this great saint!
I dreamt that one day I can be like John the Baptist who would point others to Jesus. And lo, and behold, that time came in 2020 when after a week of training in the Philippines I returned to Calgary to take on my service role as Live Christ, Share Christ Mission Coordinator.
The Live Christ, Share Christ (LCSC) Mission provides opportunities for the Catholic lay faithful to MEET Christ, LIVE Christ, SHARE Christ. Through their formation programs, LCSC makes the Gospel narration of the visit of the Virgin Mary to her cousin, Elizabeth come to life: When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. (Lk 1:41)
Just as God had been faithful and kept His promises to Mary, Elizabeth, and John, we are reminded that God likewise reveals His wondrous works to each of us as well.
Even in the midst of lockdown and quarantine, hand washing and masking, self-isolation and social distancing during this pandemic, God constantly draws us to Himself and shows us that He is, indeed, our Father.
MEET Christ through the Word of God
I leap for joy because despite the pandemic through God’s grace we launched the Liturgical Bible Study (LBS) in the Calgary Catholic School District using virtual technology. Through zoom meetings, we guided high school students in finding the connections between the Sunday liturgical readings. They discovered that the first, the second, and the Gospel readings are interrelated and have a common message that gives it unity.
Through LBS the students realized that the Bible is not a mere historical document. They soon realized that the stories of our faith ancestors in the Bible shed light to present life situations. From the insights they gathered throughout the session, the students were able to understand the pandemic in the context of the scripture readings.
SHARE Christ to The Ends of the Earth
I leap for joy because despite the pandemic through God’s grace us we will be fully engaged in the new evangelization, beyond borders and across boundaries. In our first LCS alone we had participants from New Zealand, USA, Canada and the Philippines. Life in Christ means we should let Jesus continue His work of salvation through us, with us, and in us. The Catholic lay faithful are called to be missionaries through the power of the Holy Spirit. We are all called to be workers in God’s vineyard. Through virtual technology the opportunities to share Christ are boundless.
Together, let us leap for joy as we MEET Christ, LIVE Christ, and SHARE Christ.
Ordinary life, in Ordinary Time
As I put away the last of the Christmas decorations and sweep up the tinsel amidst the fallen pine needles of the tree, my thoughts are turning towards the coming weeks. During the past Christmas season, we’ve been celebrating and contemplating the birth of Our Lord and Saviour. We’ve decorated our homes with festive cheer, brightened our mantles with Nativity scenes, and filled our tables with delicious things to eat and drink. Now we enter into Ordinary Time of the Church, and for some, this can seem like a return to the mundane. As a member of Opus Dei, I welcome this time of the year and see it as an opportunity to begin again, to find greater meaning and fulfilment in my ordinary, daily work and life, and most of all to grow in my friendship with Christ.
Everyday brings a new struggle to transform the little things of ordinary life into an encounter with Our Lord ... it starts when my alarm goes oﬀ at 5 and I welcome the new day in which to serve Him. It’s my favourite time of day, I’m the only one up and I can spend some quiet time in mental prayer and spiritual reading. I usually order my day with hours of work making sure there’s time for God throughout. One of those times is daily Mass where again I oﬀer my entire day and talk to Our Lord in the depths of my heart. I also try and make it outside, even when it’s cold, to shake the cobwebs out of my head, go for a walk and say the rosary. While meditating on the mysteries of Our Lord’s life, I’m also able to appreciate the beauty of God’s creation, the crunch of snow under my boots, the roll of the foothills meeting the mountains, the big blue Alberta skies.
Back in the house, there are meals to make, rooms to tidy, paperwork to be done. Yet each duty brings with it an opportunity to pray for someone, to do my work well, and to make it a pleasing offering to God. Making time for friends is a must and during this pandemic, it has been a challenge. However, FaceTime and Zoom with family and friends brighten the day. There are so many lonely people out there just waiting to hear a friendly voice, someone’s laughter, to comfort and encourage them. I end the day thanking our Lord for all the blessings, seeing Him in everyone I met or talked to; I ask forgiveness for those times I did not please Him, knowing that tomorrow brings a new day, a new beginning.
Time with family and friends always brings cheer to these wintry months. Our family welcomed the winter season with great anticipation, as we enjoy many of the winter sports. My husband Brian is an excellent skier. He put all four sons on skis before they were two. And if we weren’t skiing we were tobogganing down the nearby hills or snowshoeing in the back 40. If you live in Canada you’ve got to learn to embrace the snow and cold. Bundle up and get outside. You will find all of the Siray’s outdoors during the winter months. We also discovered that it brought us closer together as a family ... lots of laughter, good conversations, and praying together. Now that Fr. Nathan is in Canmore, it provides an excellent opportunity to make a pilgrimage to Our Lady of the Rockies, to pray and to see our son. His vocation to the priesthood has been such a blessing for our family ... always encouraging and lifting us up when needed, joining in the family celebrations when he’s able, playing with his nieces and nephews.
Thus this Ordinary Time in the Church is anything but ordinary, it’s a time of grace and thanksgiving. A time to walk with Our Lord and his disciples while meditating on the Gospels. One must strive to listen to His words and deepen one's knowledge and friendship with Him. A time to care for those around you, to smile, to give encouragement to those in need. A time to look for joy and be optimistic about the future. A time to discover the richness of your ordinary life.
A Christmas Message from the CWL
As the National Catholic Women's League (CWL) celebrates 100 years, the Alberta Mackenzie Provincial Council is delighted to share in this wonderful anniversary. The following message is delivered by Judy Look, President of Alberta Mackenzie CWL.
Christmas Message from the Alberta Mackenzie CWL President: Judy Look
Christmas Messages from
Christmas Message from the Grouard-McLennan Diocesan Council CWL President: Christine Becher
Christmas Message from St. Paul Diocesan Council CWL President: Lolain Alsmo
Christmas Message from Calgary Council CWL President: Jan Myhre
Are you new with the Catholic Women's League?
The Catholic Women’s League of Canada was organized nationally on June 17, 1920 and granted federal incorporation on December 12, 1923. The League is officially recognized by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) as a lay association of women and is affiliated with the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations (WUCWO), a world-wide federation holding membership in the conference of International Catholic Organizations (ICO) and having consultative status with agencies of the United Nations.
Learn about the Catholic Women's League of Canada - Alberta Mackenzie Provincial Council
Totus tuus, totally yours
I have been praying the rosary for years, but it never ever entered my mind to actually make rosaries – that is, not until a visiting priest gave me a hand-made cord rosary at one of our Parish Missions. As soon as I saw it, I had the desire to start making rosaries just like that one!
To make a long story short, I obtained the necessary supplies and tools and started making rosaries, not having the slightest idea of how this ministry would unfold.
As a former teacher I thought it would be a wonderful thing to make rosaries with children in the schools – but I didn’t mention this to anyone, because being retired, I didn’t see how this could possibly happen. Of course, our Lady had a plan. One of our parishioners saw me making rosaries and asked me, out of the blue ☺ if I had ever thought about doing this in the schools!!!
I said, ‘Yes! But I need to be invited!” He said “I’m inviting you – I’m a grade 6 teacher at” – get ready for this – “Our Lady of the Assumption School!” Our Lady had a plan and it was to begin in one of her own schools!
So on February 28th 1998 I made my first school visit. When the kids finished making the rosaries, they were thrilled – they were SO proud of their rosaries that they were showing them off to all the other students - naturally all of them wanted to make their own rosary, too - so the teachers had no choice but to invite me back to make rosaries with all the other classes in the school!
After that, news of the program spread by word of mouth, from teacher to teacher, from school to school – over the years we have visited 103 of our Catholic Schools – not only in Calgary, but also in Airdrie, Chestermere, Okotoks, DeWinton, High River and even as far away as Brooks! Every year we make and pray the rosary with between 2,000 - 3,000 students from Kindergarten to Grade 9. Teachers and students alike consider it a high-point of the year – by the end of September we are booked up for the whole school year.
At the same time, friends and parishioners, devotees of our Lady and the Rosary, were inspired to learn to make rosaries too, so we started having weekly meetings. Our membership has grown to over 60 men, women and children, who meet every Tuesday Morning at Holy Spirit Church to pray and make rosaries. When it becomes possible to resume gatherings, you are most welcome to drop in and learn how to make Rosaries and pray and enjoy the warm fellowship which has developed in this very special group.
Totus tuus is a Latin phrase which means ‘totally yours’ - Pope (Saint) John Paul II took it as his motto – consecrating his Pontificate to the care and guidance of the Blessed Virgin Mary. That was -- and is -- the inspiration for the name of our Association. The work is totally our Lady’s work – the group belongs totally to her. And each one of us, individually, strives to belong totally to her as well -- so that through Mary - we can belong totally to Jesus. For that is Mary’s desire for us. As our Heavenly Mother, her priority is to bring us closer and closer to Jesus, so that one day we can be united with Him forever in Heaven.
Our Apostolate is actually two-fold – the first is our ministry in the schools -- the second is making and distributing rosaries worldwide. It is truly amazing how our Lady works things out – we began by leaving a few rosaries in our chapel, giving them to pastoral care workers and then people started taking rosaries on their travels, giving them as gifts to parishes that they visited.
A few years ago, the daughter of one of our Rosary Makers was going to Malawi, Africa and took a gift of rosaries to a Sister there. The Sister gave a priest one of the rosaries, he in turn told other priests about our rosaries and word spread throughout Malawi, so that today we have over 45 connections in that country alone!!
Our Lady knows ahead of time where the needs are and makes sure they are met. For example, a friend called me, saying she and her husband were going to Hawaii and asked if it would be OK for her to take rosaries, even though Hawaii is not a ‘mission country’. I told her I would be glad to give her some rosaries - there must be a reason why she feels the need to take them. She called again when she got back – “You won’t believe it’ she said “ When I gave the rosaries to the Parish Priest in Maui he was overjoyed. He said the parish was starting a Prison Ministry and he didn’t know where he would get enough rosaries!!” And there are many more similar incidents.
Through our Lady’s inspiration and guidance, our world wide mission has grown to include 83 countries -- and this year alone we have already sent out over 40,000 rosaries!
Needless to say, the most important aspect of our ministry is the praying of the rosary.
Through the rosary we are surrounding the world in prayer – which is the true essence and meaning of our Apostolate.
Our Blessed Mother has made it possible for us to respond to her plea which she made in Fatima:
“Tell everyone to pray the Rosary everyday to obtain peace in the world.”
We know that the world needs peace and the rosary is the perfect prayer for peace, because it is all about Jesus, who is the Prince of Peace.
Written by Marta Toltesi. Marta lives in Calgary with her husband, John. They have two children and two grandchildren and have been parishioners of Holy Spirit Parish for over 40 years. She is a retired teacher and enjoys gardening, photography and volunteering in the schools, teaching about the rosary.
The beloved daughters
How often do we make plans, only to have them not go “as we planned”? Perhaps similarly, Mary had an idea of what plans were to unfold for her life. However, when approached by the Archangel Gabriel, her ‘yes’/fiat to God’s will transformed these ideas.
For us, the beginnings of this woman’s ministry, from what we perceived the Holy Spirit’s promptings to be, didn’t even come from a woman. It came from the encouragement of a man. Inspired by his perspective, the three of us gathered over vietnamese cuisine and multiple coffees to iron out our vision of hosting Calgary’s first Diocesan Women’s Conference.
It was the end of January 2020 when what we had was a venue and a date. We had an event before we even had a ministry! We had exactly 4 months to pull everything off and by God’s grace, every door opened for us. We had approval from the Diocese, a theme, amazing speakers, a production team, and tickets were being sold as soon as registration opened. God was very good. Despite the start of COVID-19 precautions, we were optimistic that our event would still occur. That is, until the end of March, where we sadly decided to postpone the event. It was difficult to believe that we were getting all the green-lights in planning over a short period of time, only to have the world literally shut down. Nevertheless,God was still very good. He had and has a plan for us. As a team we perceived this downtime as an opportunity to build a strong foundation for a ministry, that if God so willed, would flourish. We were given this opportune time to create the ministry, reach women locally via social media, create a social media presence and attempt to collaborate with local communities to get the ministry running despite the pandemic.
Reflecting on the Magnificat, I am reminded that we are nothing without the Lord and His grace in our life. As humans, we often lack the practice of gratitude. Mary gave a joyful claim: “all generations shall call me blessed.” She recognized the work of God in her life; that He was to make her the Mother of the Saviour of the world! Her ‘yes’ surely was a sign of gratitude, a quality that many acquire through virtuous practice and prayer. When I realized we were no longer able to proceed with the conference, I was disappointed and my motivation seemed to wane. I did not reflect on what God was conveying to us during the initial quiet months of COVID-19 restrictions. I didn’t “ponder” these things as Mary did. It is possible that Our Lady would have been overwhelmed, yet she never questioned Gabriel. Instead, she prayed and pondered everything interiorly. I can now recognize the generous gift God provided us. Our vision for this ministry is to continue saying ‘yes’ even when feeling discouraged. It is important to me that women in Calgary have a space to rediscover their identity and grow in virtue.
The virtue of humility echoes throughout the Magnificat. St. Teresa of Avila defines humility as: living in the truth. The truth of who we are, and who God is. As we grow in knowledge of this truth, everything and everyone is put into proper order. When one knows the truth of who they are, there is no longer the need to compare, or compete. Instead, secure and confident in the Father, one then forgets themselves and is present to others. In Mary, we see this lived out in full. Confident in her identity as a beloved daughter of God- that had already been rooted within through her practice of prayer and virtue- upon receiving her mission, Mary is able to forget herself, and goes with haste to tend to Elizabeth. Similarly, we hope that the Beloved Daughters Ministry becomes a platform for women. That our contributors, resources, and events, will aid women along the journey of growth in prayer, virtue, and friendship as they lean into their belovedness.
After postponing our conference, we were offered the opportunity to host a live-streamed Virtual Pilgrimage through Canmore’s Shrine. Our website launched on August 22, 2020 - the Queenship of Mary, which also happened to be the Shrine’s patron feast day. It was evident that Our Lady had held our hand through all this and so we dedicate this women’s ministry to her.
Mary is our example of how to magnify the Lord. If there is anything we desire, it is to do the same; that our ministry magnifies the Lord.
The contents of the backpack were easy to take out. A change of clothes, some carefully-chosen toiletries, a hand-written card and a hand-made bracelet. “They were also life-changing”, says one of the first women, a survivor, to receive one of the specially-prepared backpacks assembled by caring members of St. Michael’s council of the Catholic Women’s League.
The woman received the backpack when she arrived at RESET, a Calgary-based agency that helps women ages 16 and older escape sexual exploitation and trafficking. Bringing nothing but the jeans and T-shirt she’d worn for three days, the woman says she, “can’t put into words how much it meant to have something to change into. I cried when I read the card, and wore the bracelet on my ankle for three straight months. It’s now hanging on my wall.”
St. Michael’s CWL, with help from councils at Holy Name, Holy Spirit, St. Peter’s, St. Bonaventure and St. Albert the Great, launched the IWIN – I’m Worth It Now backpack initiative in late 2019. IWIN has already distributed eight of its first 12 packs in partnership with Calgary Police Service and RESET Society of Calgary (formerly Servants Anonymous). Another 18 will be assembled this year, says project lead Kristin Fahlman.
Kristin had previously participated in a project to combat human trafficking overseas and had learned of a similar backpack program operating in Florida, but did not know of the need to help survivors here. After attending a local conference about human trafficking in Canada, she knew God was calling her to take local action to address this issue.
When the conference ended, the Holy Spirit led her to Detective Paul Rubner, a Calgary Police Service officer who works on the front lines of human trafficking in Calgary. “I introduced myself and explained my idea. He was extremely enthusiastic and, as it turns out, he was the key person in Calgary who would know how to implement distribution system for the backpacks.”
Research shows human trafficking is one of the fastest-growing crimes in Canada, affecting people from all walks of life. It is also one of the most lucrative of criminal activities, with traffickers profiting up to $600,000 per victim, per year.
“We chose the name IWIN because we want survivors to know that they are worthy; worthy right at this very moment. It doesn’t matter what their past looks like. It doesn’t matter if they have plans for their future or not. They are worthy of love and respect,” says Kristin.
Each backpack is linked to a “prayer warrior” who receives a bracelet that matches one in a backpack. Survivors are told that someone else has a matching bracelet—and is now linked to them in prayer.
The next group of backpacks will also include hand-made reusable face-masks made by CWL members. “Two masks were added to each of the remaining packs and the plan is to include them in all future backpacks,” explains Kristin.
To learn more about IWIN and how you can assist, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Edited by Joy Gregory for Faithfully, on behalf of the Catholic Women's League.
Photos submitted by Jan Myhre, Calgary Diocesan CWL.
One of Calgary’s newest vegetable gardens is located in the backyard of Elizabeth House (EH), a maternal care home that’s now growing ready-to-eat plants alongside healthy babies. In a world hungry for good news, this project fits the bill, says Michelle Haywood, program manager at Elizabeth House.
Opened by the Catholic Diocese of Calgary more than 20 years ago, Elizabeth House provides supportive housing to at-risk pregnant and parenting women who need a safe place to live. Seeded into two new raised beds, this year’s inaugural garden is busy growing everything from lettuce to tomatoes, carrots and squash. It’s also nurturing at least one young resident’s interest in vegetable production—and it all began with a group of Catholic men who dared ask the folks at EH a simple question: How can we help?
The raised beds, like every other landscape revitalization project undertaken at Elizabeth House since 2017, were built by the St. Peter’s Council of the Knights of Columbus. That’s the year the council’s Grand Knight Peter Dugandzic reached out to Haywood. That conversation laid the foundation of a relationship that’s flourished over four years, thousands of dollars and hundreds of volunteer hours.
“What the Knights have done here is amazing, but it’s about more than landscaping,” notes Haywood. “There’s also a sense of being cared for by this group of gentlemen offering their hands and hearts to help us. It’s hard to put that kind of support into words.”
Love in action
By 2018, Dugandzic was leading a group of Knights of Columbus in some serious hands-on work. Together, the men transformed the home’s weed-filled backyard into a summer oasis, complete with new sod and a new patio, outdoor furniture, a barbecue, perimeter shrub beds and an underground sprinkler. That same year, another council based in Airdrie provided the labour to re-side EH’s home and detached garage.
Last year, the Knights tackled the home’s front yard, again adding fresh sod, shrubs and irrigation.
“Everybody was pretty excited when Peter brought the idea to the council,” remembers Lu Scarpino. Sworn in as the Grand Knight at St. Peter’s this July, Scarpino was the council treasurer when the project began. “Elizabeth House is doing great work and it’s nice to be able to support that. I think we’ve built a relationship that will continue for many years,” adds Scarpino.
Fr. Jonathan Gibson agrees. The pastor at St. Peter’s parish, Fr. Gibson says the relationship between the knights and Elizabeth House reinforces the governing principles of the Knights of Columbus. Charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism have all been strengthened by the project, says the priest. He views the relationship between the Knights of Columbus and Elizabeth House as a real-world example of how these knights live the heart of the gospel by doing work that cares for the women and children who live at Elizabeth House.
With the vegetable garden beds built and seeded, Dugandzic and Haywood are now focused on relocating a grotto built on the grounds of the original EH site in the Mission district. The stone work will be done by the same skilled tradesmen who built the grotto and one at the new Our Lady of the Rockies church in Canmore. The statue of Mary is being repainted by Dugandzic’s wife, Dorothy Voytechek. The new grotto will include a glass panel to protect the statue from the elements.
The grotto will be added to the backyard; already a place of refuge for residents, their children and EH staff, says Haywood. Given the complications of COVID-19, she knows the Knights at St. Peter’s didn’t have their usual opportunities to fundraise in 2020. That means some of the costs incurred were covered by individual knights and their families.
Dugandzic, who’s already working with Elizabeth House on projects for 2021, says he launched the EH project as a way to invigorate the Knights he led. Looking back, he admits the project’s success goes way beyond the physical spaces they created. “Elizabeth House is dear to our hearts. We like the work that they do. That house is nearly always full and it feels good to know our knights have helped make it an even more special place.”
Written by Joy Gregory for Faithfully
A residence for young men
“At Bowmont I learnt how to live a structured life and how to conduct my work with love,” says Joe Kaup, 23, a married engineer working in Calgary. Kaup is one of the many young men who lived in Bowmont, a small residence for male students close to the University of Calgary and SAIT. It is run by Opus Dei members; the residents need not be Catholic. Its director, Evan Francis, a plastics-recycling engineer, says it is much more than a residence: it tries to form young men who can transform society. To that end, it tries to be a home away from home, foster good study habits, reach out to the most needy.
Joe, from Edmonton, did an internship in Calgary while in the third year of Engineering at the University of Alberta, and stayed at Bowmont eight months. He enjoyed the feeling of companionship and support for his faith.
“I really liked that after supper we would visit the Blessed Sacrament in the small chapel, and have a get-together afterwards where I could get to know everyone a little better through lively discussion.”
Carter Snethun, 20, was living in the residence the school year, 2016-2017, studying Engineering. “There is a big focus on the development of the whole person. You are encouraged to do things to the best of your abilities. There are lots of opportunities for learning.”
Joe credits the housekeeping staff. “The amount of time one saves by not having to do laundry, cook, or do the majority of the cleaning cannot be overstated. It then gives one far more time that can be directed towards studies or the pursuit of other skills. I was able to develop my skill at playing the guitar.” Carter concurs.
Two Calgary-area brothers have experienced Opus Dei residences in other cities. Fr. Nathan Siray, the pastor of Our Lady of the Rockies (Canmore), frequented Riverview Centre in Montreal in 2002-2003, while studying history at McGill University.
“My roommate invited me to join him for morning Mass and weekly activities at Riverview, walking distance from campus. I felt very welcomed. I most appreciated the time that the priest and the director of Riverview took to offer spiritual direction. I also enjoyed the variety of cultural activities that took place, from lectures on various topics to informally discussing our favourite musical artists. It was a great mix of faith formation, cultural enrichment and opportunities to grow in my life of Christian outreach.”
Did this help him become a priest? “The greatest help was to discern what a vocation apart from the priesthood would look like, as I saw the vocations of celibate members. I saw how well they lived as disciples of Christ in the world and showed how fruitful this vocation is. As I pondered this beautiful calling, it became more apparent to me that I was called to the ordained priesthood.”
His younger brother Justin lived at Glenwood in 2013-2014, in Vancouver, while studying at UBC. Now he works in Calgary as a high school teacher, is married and has a one-year-old boy.
“My stay at Glenwood helped give me an idea of what a structured Catholic lifestyle could be. No matter how busy things get, you can always get organized, manage the chaos of life, and find the best balance of faith, work and free time. It was truly a happy place to be: there were always smiles and stories floating around.”
Written by Fernando Mignone
Caring for our neighbours
Many are internally displaced or flee to neighbouring countries such as Lebanon and Jordan. Some, Syrians in particular, have settled in parts of Canada, including Calgary, but for those who stay or have gone back, their homes are often destroyed and require a lot of rebuilding. “Sometimes people don’t feel safe moving back to their town,” said Gabriel. “There have been cases of kidnapping, harrassment, discrimination. There have been times that they’ve been killed because of their faith.”
Due to difficulties crossing check points, Palestinian Christians aren’t always granted a pass to attend Easter Mass in Jerusalem. “The locals can’t experience Easter there, but the tourists have no problem,” said Gabriel.
She organizes pilgrimages with CNEWA to the Holy Land for those wanting both a spiritual experience and a snapshot into the life of local Christians. The next one is being planned for 2020. “The Christians are always very grateful when we come and visit them. They feel supported,” said Gabriel.
In August, Gabriel spoke at the national Catholic Women’s League (CWL) Convention held in Calgary because CNEWA is one of the charities CWL supports at the national level. Two of the projects CWL funds are a centre in Jerusalem that provides tutoring for at-risk youth and a centre near Bethlehem providing healthcare for women and their babies.
National CWL President Anne-Marie Gorman went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and met some of the local Christians, including entrepreneurs who left to seek education in the United States, but returned to open a brewery. “Things seem to be so unstable, so I’m thinking if they have enough faith to go home and settle back in the Palestinian occupied territory, it behooves us to support them as best we can,” said Gorman.
“Our past spiritual adviser Bishop Martin Currie said the Holy Land is in danger of becoming like Disneyland, just a tourist site that people go see what it used to be like. But when I was there, it was all about these people being living stones. These are the people that haven’t left.”
St. Bonaventure parishioner Kathleen Kufeldt is one of many Calgarian donors who financially support CNEWA. For several years she has organized a raffle at her parish for CNEWA during the annual CWL fundraiser. “I think we are so blessed here to practice our faith. My heart goes out to the Christians in the Middle East,” said Kufeldt.
“I feel it must be one of Jesus’s wounds that the area where He was born and grew up is so difficult for His followers.”
Written by Sara Francis for Faithfully
Nearly 900 Catholic Women’s League (CWL) members from across Canada gathered at the Hyatt Hotel in Calgary Aug. 18-21 for the 99th Annual National Convention.
Each year members debate and vote on resolutions, forming League policy and guiding their advocacy work. The CWL members passed two resolutions concerning the rights of the unborn and a nuclear arms ban.
The first resolution to pass was — Canada to Honour its Commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Canada ratified this United Nations agreement to protect the unborn 20 years ago, yet there is still no Canadian legislation protecting the unborn at any stage of development.
“When you sign something and ratify it, you’d expect some legislation to appear,” said CWL President Anne-Marie Gorman. “What we are looking for is legislation. You said you were going to do it, so why hasn’t someone done it. We’ll be asking that question.”
The second resolution to pass asks the Canadian Government to honour the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. CWL wants the federal government to support, sign and ratify this treaty which the UN adopted in July 2017; so far 25 countries have ratified it.
Once members adopt a resolution an executive committee prepares to bring the concerns to federal politicians in Ottawa on behalf of all 78,000 members in the coming months.
Each convention also has a spiritual, educational and cultural component. Four Calgarians spoke on this year’s theme “Care For Our Common Home.” Dr. Peter Baltutis, Dr. Timothy Harvie, Sr. Madeleine Gregg and Marilou LeGeyt unpacked the topic from both theological and practical perspectives.
Dressed in a white sweater jacket and matching pearl earrings Sr. Dorothy Ederer, a Grand Rapids Dominican Sister from Michigan, delivered a high-energy, entertaining and emotional keynote address titled “What is our common home? We care for our homeland, our homes, our hearts.”
“Everyone take out your phones,” said Ederer. “What would God be calling to tell you if He were on the other line?”
Ederer proceeded to tell her captivated audience for the next two hours how each person is called to be Christ-like and loving toward their neighbour using a series of personal stories from her time in ministry and mission, interspersed with inspirational songs and tidbits of wisdom. She highlighted topics such as daily prayer, finding your passion and reconciliation.
“What kinds of values do we want to leave to our children or those coming after us?” asked Ederer.
She used the phrase “more is caught than taught” to highlight how her mother would keep a holy hour each morning before getting on with her day. “Kids imitate us,” she said.
“Find your passion, live it, but don’t compromise your morals and values,” she said.
She urged the Church to be a place where people are loved and forgiven.
“To forgive yourself is one of the hardest things we have to do as Christians,” she said. “If you hold anger in your heart it’s destroying you. It’s like taking a glass of poison and pouring it down your throat.”
Her last message was one of hope and love. “I want to tell you how loved you are.”
Conventions are an opportunity for renewal and Gorman said she hopes all CWL members will take what they’ve learned and share it with their communities.
“I hope they leave appreciating who they are and that God loves them,” said Gorman.
Written by Sara Francis for the Diocese of Calgary
Photos courtesy of Annie Chirka, St. Peter's Calgary
See more photos here: https://st-peters.ca/cwl/
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers